As I am just an abstraction to you I shall forego the formalities.
I write to you in grave concern. The department at which I am a student faces closure despite its academic excellence. I feel Peter Hallward sums up exactly why this decision is so perplexing, to reiterate:
Philosophy is the most prestigious and highest research-rated subject at Middlesex University. Building on its grade of 5 in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, in the 2008 RAE Middlesex was rated first in philosophy among post-1992 universities and 13th out of a total of 41 institutions nationally, with 65% of its research activity judged ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. It is now widely recognised as one of the most important centres for the study of modern European philosophy anywhere in the English-speaking world.
I am a child of New Labour’s education – the most highly tested, target driven generation in history. Throughout my academic life, I have been treated as an abstraction – a figure on a cost benefit analysis. I have known this for some time; however, I have not taken a break from studying. In my school years, I acquired a thirst for knowledge that I have yet to satisfy. After a few inspirational teachers pointed me in the right direction, I chose The University to York to study philosophy. The logic I employed to do so was on based on rankings, something I quickly found to be a grave mistake. The route philosophy has taken within the Anglo-American school system did not suit me, extinguishing my interest in philosophy. Yet, in my spare time, I read a few texts of the European school and was instantly gripped. Since coming to Middlesex I have once again felt inspired by studying, something which is not and cannot be conveyed by your graphs and statistics.
The University of York ranks 11th overall and 12th for philosophy. Middlesex ranks 105th as an institution and 40th for Philosophy. From the perspective of objectivity, surely I should be more satisfied with York – after all it increases my employability. However, from the position of a student one is not focussed on this. To academically achieve one has to enjoy what they are studying and feel gripped. The CRMEP offer one of the most stimulating courses on philosophy in the English speaking world, if one is interested in the questions posed by the European schools. I had offers from Warwick and Sussex to study, yet chose Middlesex for its academic excellence and relatively low-cost.
Logic that fails to address my individuality cannot comprehend such decisions and fails to account for subjective interests. In a world faced by crisis, academic life should be protected, especially departments that concern themselves with society’s problems. I could understand the decision to dismantle the department if it were stagnant or failing and did not benefit the University’s reputation , yet this is simply not the case. We are witnessing resurgence in interest in the topics taught by the department. As Nina Power, former Middlesex student writes:
There are currently 63 postgraduate students in the Centre: 48 MA students and 15 PhD students. 5 PhDs were awarded in 2009. These are remarkable numbers, especially for a small group of six staff.
Furthermore, the actions of the Centre’s academics have publicised the university on a massive scale. Two Internationally attended conferences have been set up while I have been a student, on top of the publicity for the department on an international scale through the work on subjects ranging from modernism to Haiti. I am extremely proud to be attached to such a department.
Obviously as a student I am gravely disappointed and angered by your decision. As your decision seemingly defies logic, I take it to be an attack on the subject I hold dear. It greatly worries me that Middlesex – a sanctuary in a neo-liberal dominated economy – will no longer support the research into some of the most important thinkers in the world. I have the greatest respect for the academics and students at Middlesex. I have not experienced an atmosphere so truly humbling and inspiring and will therefore stand in solidarity with all academics and students in their actions. I assure you the minds of the department are an intimidating force committed to collective action.
The decision shows a lack of understanding of the psychology of the students. With recent successes in reversing administration polices in both Kings College and Sussex, we are not going to take this lying down.
I would strongly advise reconsidering.
Part-Time Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory Student
Aloha Palestine Coordinator for Cultural & Artistic Exchange
Executive member of Gaza Demonstrators Support Campaign